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Pritzker: Summer festivals should 'think seriously about canceling'

A woman sits as she smokes in downtown Chicago, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. It's gorgeous outside but please behave. No end is in sight for the stay-at-home order as Chicagoans fight summer weather temptations. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
A woman sits as she smokes in downtown Chicago, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. It's gorgeous outside but please behave. No end is in sight for the stay-at-home order as Chicagoans fight summer weather temptations. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Organizers of large summer events in Illinois need to “think seriously about canceling,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday. 

Pritzker doesn’t foresee large gatherings returning until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, which could be months, or even more than a year away. That means major summer festivals such as Lollapalooza and the Taste of Chicago could be in doubt, not to mention all of professional sports. 

“I would not risk having large groups of people getting together anywhere,” Pritzker said. “I think that’s hard for everybody to hear, but that’s just a fact. Even with testing and tracing and treating, as is necessary for us to begin to make changes, it isn’t enough for me to say that it’s OK to have a big festival with a whole bunch of people gathering together.”

The governor addressed the state for the 32nd consecutive day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The state announced 1,344 more cases of the virus and 66 additional deaths, bringing the state’s total to 16,422 confirmed cases and 528 deaths. Illinois has tested 80,857 people. 

Even with “some evidence” that the curve could be flattening and that the stay-at-home order might be slowing the virus, Pritzker said the state cannot move on until it has the proper testing, contact tracing and treatment. 

The governor emphasized that a flatter curve doesn't mean the virus is going away, only that new cases are growing at a slower rate. 

It’s unlikely the stay-at-home order would be lifted prior to April 30, Pritzker said. Even if it ends after April 30, the state is looking at which restrictions could remain in place. 

“It isn’t going to be that all of a sudden you’re going to drop the restrictions,” Pritzker said. 

Many summer festivals across the country have rescheduled for later this year. Summerfest in Milwaukee moved from late June and early July to September. Coachella, which is usually in April in California, moved to mid-October. 

Lollapalooza in Chicago’s Grant Park is scheduled to begin July 30 and attracts nearly 400,000 people over four days. The festival has not yet postponed or canceled this year’s event, though it hasn't released a lineup, which it typically releases in March. 

President Donald Trump is optimistic that the NFL season will begin as planned on Sept. 10. MLB said it's considering “numerous contingency plans” for the 2020 season. According to an ESPN report, that includes one option to isolate all 30 teams in Arizona. 

Yet, as long as the United Center hockey rink remains packed with crates of emergency food, it doesn’t seem likely stadiums will be filling up any time soon. 

“Everybody needs to know that if we are improving, and it’s still up in the air, but if we are improving here in the state, it is because people are staying at home,” Pritzker said. 

On Thursday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike addressed a CDC report that highlighted a Chicago virus super-spreader, who unwittingly spread the virus to as many as 16 people, three of whom died. This was in February, well before the stay-at-home order was issued.

“We know that anybody can catch this virus and that means anybody can transmit it,” Ezike said. “It’s irresponsible to not take the necessary precautions to protect not only yourself, but those around you. … To the few [people] who think this is not something to act on, please think beyond yourself. Think beyond just your immediate family. Just remember that there are those who contracting that virus from you could literally end their lives.”

According to the IDPH, Chicago has now seen 6,648 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the rest of Cook County has 4,767. 

Lake County has 1,124 confirmed cases, Will 1,010, DuPage 943, Kane 318, McHenry 198, Kendall 86, DeKalb 32, Whiteside 23, La Salle 17, Ogle 14, Grundy 13, Lee nine, Carroll five, and Bureau four. 

Newly reported deaths included 41 deaths in Cook County, nine in Will County and six in DuPage County, four in Lake County and one in Kane County. 

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